Nowadays, Lao Banzhang has become synonymous with puerh tea. Take any five puerh tea cakes available on today’s market, and at least one of them will almost certainly have the Banzhang name stamped on its wrapper. In spring, tea lovers from all over the country arrive in Menghai and set out from the town of Menghun, flocking to the village of Lao Banzhang via the “Golden Mile” of puerh. They all come because of the tea. Why is Lao Banzhang tea such a hot commodity on the tea market? Why did its prices skyrocket so quickly? What is it that’s so special about this tea?
Lao Banzhang tea prices have increased more than a thousandfold over the past twenty years. Thanks to its bold character, Lao Banzhang has stood out among all the other mountain teas of the region to earn itself a reputation as the “King of Puerh.” Its distinctive character has been described thus: “At first sip, it is smooth yet contains a hint of bitterness; this faint bitter flavor massages the fragrance of the tea, slowly revolving in the mouth; distant strains of sweetness turn over and over in the throat, lingering after the tea is gone.” It’s a feeling that those who have tasted authentic Lao Banzhang tea will truly understand.
In 2008, a group of around thirty tea lovers in Taiwan blind taste-tested thirty Lao Banzhang cakes. Sanctuary was ranked 2nd place amongst the thirty! The amazing thing is that the raise in price for storing the cake coupled with the fact that the shop donated a portion of the proceeds of this cake towards our future Center, means that this old cake is cheaper than a lot of brand new Lao Banzhang tea. In our opinion, it isn’t just older, it is better, coming from a time when all the hoopla was less pronounced.
This cake can teach you about Lao Banzhang tea, but it is also just a stellar tea and shows that behind all the hype, which may be inflated, there is intrinsic power and quality to the old trees there. This is a great tea to age or to drink. You’d be hard pressed to find better.